After saying for weeks that he had no control over negative television ads produced by the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, David Gill on Thursday had trouble explaining a new television ad that his campaign created with the DCCC.
His explanation, made during an awkward 15-minute conference call with reporters, ended abruptly when the Democratic candidate for the 13th Congressional District left the call, leaving campaign staffers to try to answer questions about the ads and how they were funded.
The audio of the conference call was quickly posted on at least two websites, including the conservative Illinois Review (illinoisreview.typepad.com).
The National Republican Congressional Committee called the conference call "a circus."
"David Gill couldn't answer questions about his hypocritical ad and his less-than-transparent approach to this bogus campaign spin," said NRCC spokeswoman Katie Prill. "Illinois families are looking for answers, but David Gill refuses to be honest. If David Gill will deceive voters about a TV ad, how can Illinois families trust that he will be in honest in Congress?"
Ironically, the NRCC ran a similar coordinated ad with Gill's Republican opponent, Rodney Davis, last month.
The coordinated ads are legal under Section 441a(d) of the Federal Election Campaign Act. Congressional campaigns across the country make use of the coordinated spending, said officials at both the NRCC and the DCCC.
Gill claimed the DCCC money for his ads came from a "special fund set aside for candidates who feel that that kind of money is strangling our democracy."
But the DCCC said only that the money came from online donors, and not from political action committees, lobbyists or corporate donors.
Gill's conference call, which began with a statement defending his ad and attacking Davis for taking money from "corporate PACs, oil companies and Wall Street bankers," spun out of control when reporters began asking questions.
Asked if he would pull an ad in which he claims that he doesn't take money from corporations, Gill said merely, "I think the statement stands for itself."
When he was asked why he didn't announce he was going to take advantage of the DCCC grass-roots funding, there was a long pause and he responded that he didn't think it would be an issue.
At times, campaign staffers on the call were left to answer questions for Gill, but they declined to identify themselves.
At a debate Wednesday night in Normal, Gill said that Davis "has taken large checks from Exxon-Mobil, from Exelon, from Marathon, from Haliburton, etcetera. My campaign refuses to do that."
But Gill has taken PAC money from labor union and other PACs.
And the DCCC has run more than $1.7 million worth of TV spots against Davis, benefiting Gill, that are paid from corporate PAC money.
Asked what makes some PAC money appropriate and other money inappropriate, he responded, "I think the PAC money that I receive comes from individuals together who I'm going to Washington to work for, that is working men and women."
But the Exelon PAC, for example, also is supported by contributions from individuals, many of whom work for the company.